Adapting to the iPad, Called Education's 'Equalizer'

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Anthony Leuck of Berkeley, N.J., is used to communicating in unconventional ways.

The 18-year-old is a quadriplegic with multiple disabilities that make speech and muscle control extremely difficult. He interacts through eye gaze or by tapping his head against a switch on a communication device to spell out words.

But on a recent afternoon at the Lehmann Center, a special-needs school in Lakewood, N.J., Leuck was able to make music. With some effort, he slid his knuckles lightly over the digital image of a guitar on an iPad screen. The touches produced a series of acoustic-style chords from the iPad ? and a big grin from Leuck.

Leuck is among a growing number of special-needs students nationwide who have gone back to school this year with tablet computers. The tablets are growing in popularity for special-needs students because they can be customized to each child's needs, are lightweight and mobile, and give the kids the sense they're plugged into a larger, high-tech community, educators and parents say.

"These children can access and enjoy everything a typically developing child would enjoy ? they just have to access it differently," says Gina Shulman, a social worker at Lehmann. "We have that fine motor skill; we can take a finger and press all those tiny keyboard buttons and little tiny switches. Now, our children, with just a gentle touch, can color; they can play instruments."

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